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Subject: Re: Noteworthy Opera/Vocal Reissues
From: Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 30 Apr 2017 14:40:06 -0700
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There is something very strange about the sound of those first stereo opera recordings RCA made in Rome in 1957, including the Leinsdorf "Tosca" with Milanov.  It sounds like the orchestra was recorded in stereo on two tracks but the singers were all on a single mono track in an acoustically isolated space.  You might have one or more singers panned to the right or left but never space between two singing together.

Not a very satisfying sound and very different from those that Decca recorded for RCA. Also a marked comedown from the magnificent stereo recordings of orchestral works (and the "Salome" final scene and "Elektra" excerpts) RCA had been making in Chicago and Boston since 1954.

My guess is as follows. RCA started using the same 2-track tape decks that they used for the orchestral recordings on their opera productions in 1955, including such things as the Perlea "Aida" and Beecham "Boheme." However, rather than make true stereo opera recordings, they made dual mono with singers on one track and orchestra on the other. Apparently the idea was that it allowed correctness on the vocal parts afterwards (early "post production") without the expense of having the orchestra present.

In 1957 the tape decks were 3-track on the stereo orchestral recordings were 3 channel (as can be heard on SACD reissues) downmixed to 2 channel for cutting the LP and pre-recorded tape masters.

It sounds like they tried to use the third track to do the same trick with keeping the singers separated. In stereo, it compromised the end result more seriously.

Max Paley

Sent from my iPhone

> On Apr 30, 2017, at 13:59, Max D. Winter <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> Bob Rideout wrote:
> 
> "Late Santuzzas and Toscas were horrifying, but I have a sense
> that they were not that much different from her prime - the
> Tosca recording is a mess..."
> 
> Well, I like the Tosca recording, although I wouldn't say it was my favorite.  (The first Callas 
> recording and the 1956 Tebaldi broadcast tie for top slot, for me.)  Milanov's Tosca is great in 
> the live Covent Garden performance with Corelli.  But on the recording, her "I-Vhant-To-Be-
> Alone!" delivery of "Voglio vederlo!" is a hoot.
> 
> Of all Milanov's roles, even those in her prime, the one I like her in best is Maddalena in 
> "Andrea Chenier."  The part fit her voice to a T and she really identified with the character and 
> the dramatic situation.  The 1954 matinee performance with Del Monaco and Warren is one of 
> the great broadcasts in Met history:  three powerful man-'o-wars steaming up the channel.  
> Really great stuff.
> 
> MDW
> 
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